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Debate on Industrialisation

Modern History (Year 12) - Stalin and Trotsky's Struggle

Ben Whitten

Economic and Ideological Issues

Communists had always expected that the first successful revolution would take place in an advanced industrialised economy; however this was far from the truth for the USSR economy, which was primarily agricultural.

Left-Wing Solution

In order for industrialisation to be funded, peasants would see a rise in taxes. Peasants would be encouraged to join collectivised farms in order to increase their agricultural productivity, and as a result, a rapid, state-funded industrialisation would occur.

Trotsky was a great advocate for the left-wing solution; he believed that a dictatorship of industry was a policy which followed the true ideologies of communism, as opposed to the semi-capitalist New Economic Policy.

Right-Wing Solution

The New Economic Policy was very popular for the party. Peasants would see lower taxes in order to fund a gradual introduction of industrialisation, along with ownership of their own farms and the ability to trade on the free market so that the regime would gain popularity. As a result, a slow, state-funded industrialisation would occur.

Bukharin was the leading advocate for the right-wing solution, and saw initial support from Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev.

NEP’s Rise and Fall

In the 1920s, the semi-capitalist NEP was very popular with the Communist Party; many Communists were not willing to increase levels of taxation for the peasant population in fear of backlash or negativity against the new government. Initially, the NEP created economic growth and increased production of consumer goods; this increase in grain production led to greater standards of living for the USSR.

However, in 1927, growth figures were much lower and support for the NEP quickly declined.

Grain Production (million tonnes)

  • 1925: 73

  • 1926: 77

  • 1927: 72

  • 1928: 73

The initial success of the NEP ensured popularity for the right-wing side of government. Between 1924 and 1925, Trotsky was the only contender that didn’t back the NEP; his arguments for rapid industrialisation was seen as foolish, as the NEP was helping the economy grow and this ultimately undermined Trotsky’s position.

In 1925, Zinoviev and Kamenev back-tracked and abandoned the NEP in attempts to win the support of the left-wing; the continued success of the NEP meant that this attempt to gain control would fail.

In 1928, Stalin abandoned the NEP once it was very clearly failing and the Party became open to more left-wing solutions; Stalin’s move to the left increased his popularity, while Bukharin continued to argue for the NEP and undermined his position.

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